Woody plants in the prairie are beneficial when kept under control. Woody plants in the prairie can be shrubs or trees. Fire keeps woodlands and forests from developing, however many native shrubs (shinery, sand sage, etc.) are fire adapted and do not decrease with fire.
Wildlife use shrub thickets for cover. White-tailed deer browse (eat) oak, chittamwood, dogwood, persimmon, green briar and hackberry woody plant species as well as several others. Some wildlife species consume the fruits of the woody plants. The wild turkey needs trees such as the cottonwood for roosting.
Woody plants are usually found in creek bottoms, draws and along the edges of the prairies.
The use of fire is necessary to keep woody plants under control. If fire is not used in the prairie, woody plants will take over, creating a shrubland or woodland ecosystem. Eastern redcedar trees have taken over a lot of the prairie due to fire suppression. This has negative impacts on grazing animals, several wildlife species, especially native grassland birds.